Taking the mic: Live and direct from the Royton Riviera with Jack Dearden

LET us start with good intentions. I will try and get through a column without a mention of VAR but do not hold your breath folks.

Firstly, a nod to England’s cricketers who have completed an impressive innings victory against South Africa.

In fact, it is their biggest away win in more than nine years as they take a 2-1 lead in the series with one match to play.

Enjoy it while you can because change could be on its way with regard to the traditional five-day Test matches.

The English and Wales Cricket Board is looking at reducing Test matches to four days.

They say it may help ‘complex scheduling and player workloads.’ It begs the question is a five-day Test becoming a dying art?

It is certainly an emotive topic for players, fans and the sports decision makers.

It is estimated up to 40 days a year could be freed up on the international cricket calendar if a move to four day Tests is implemented.

Much focus appears to be being switched to Twenty 20 cricket, and other versions of the one day game, I get the reasons why. It is entertaining, and done and dusted in a day.

However, maybe that is one of the reasons why shorter Test matches are even being considered.

Lots of games are not surviving five days because modern players are not acquiring the skills and concentration levels demanded for a five-day Test.

It seems to me it is just a matter of time before four-day Tests become the norm.

If that ultimately becomes reality do not be surprised if the ECB fill some of the saved estimated 40 days a year with another trumped up competition that bares little resemblance to cricket as we have known it.

Rugby of both codes have been making headlines recently. Let us start with union, Saracens and the salary cap.

Saracens have been fined £5.3 million, deducted 35 points, and now relegated. Their crime?

Overspending way beyond the limitations of the salary cap. Or, to be frank, cheating.

Some think Premiership Rugby have acted swiftly and no doubt appropriately by dishing out punishment, which has been accepted by Saracens.

So far there has been little or no explanation from Premiership Rugby, certainly at the time of going to press.

I have never been a fan of salary caps in any sport. I understand the desire to have one but it always seems to be difficult to police.

And there never seems to be any suitable explanations as to where and why it went wrong. Fans and supporters and other interested partners deserve better surely?

Let us lay out all the facts and then people can decide themselves.

Right, get set for the return of Rugby League. The new Super League season starts on January 30 and I consider it to be one of the most important in the 125-year history of the game.

A new television deal will be negotiated soon, next year the World Cup will be played on these shores, there is the arrival in Super League of Toronto Wolfpack so what is there not to look forward to ?

While Super League will lead the way keep a close eye on the Championship, because I expect that to be more hotly contested this time around than ever before.

I have never hidden my love for the sport. In my view, it is really ‘the greatest game’.

It is not without its problems and I do not suppose it ever will be. But stand by for a blockbuster of a season in what is a crucial season for the sport.

On a personal note this coming Rugby League season marks a real milestone for me and my pal Trevor Hunt.

This will be our 25th season of presenting Thursday night Rugby League on BBC Radio Manchester.

You will find us every week on 95.1 FM on Thursdays and Sundays.

Didn’t think I would manage it, did you?

I had my say on VAR before a ball had even been kicked in anger and predicted the problems. It is now beyond a joke.

It is not the use of technology I am against but the application of it and the way it is being utilised.

Recently, when I checked, VAR had ruled out over 20 goals because an arm pit, the size of a toe, or having a bigger nose than one of the opposition players have resulted in goals being disallowed for offside.

The paying public go to watch games largely to see goals scored.

They do not go to wait to and see a referee put a “square in the air” then face an anxious wait to find out if the goal stands.

At the very least let the paying public know what is being said and the reasons why a goal or otherwise is being checked.

Let us have more explanations not grey areas. While we are at it let us get rid of the geometry which seems to be connected to VAR.

The existing VAR legislation regarding offside and hand ball offences are beyond a joke. Sort it out or scrap it altogether.


You can hear me on BBC Radio Manchester and find me on Twitter

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